Willis v. Willis, Ky COA, QDRO Modification, Jurisdiction

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Larry Willis v. Ruby Willis

No. 2010-CA-002328-MR

Published: Opinion Reversing

County: Boyle

Larry Willis appealed from the November 30, 2010 order of Boyle Family Court modifying a Qualified Domestic Relations Order entered July 16, 2009.

The parties were married in 1992 and Ruby filed a petition to dissolve the marriage in March 2007. The parties participated in mediation in July, 2007 and reached an agreement which Larry reluctantly signed. On August 22, 2007, Ruby returned to the marital residence to retrieve personal items and furniture, and violence ensued. Larry shot Ruby twice and inflicted a massive head injury by kicking her. She is now permanently disabled and guardians and conservators have been appointed to care for her needs. Larry was convicted of criminal charges in connection with the attack and received five to ten year sentences, to be served concurrently.

On December 22, 2008, the family court entered the final decree of dissolution incorporating the property settlement agreement. Ruby received all the marital property and $91,000.00 from the nonmarital portion of Larry’s retirement as an offset. In July, 2009, Ruby filed a motion to enter a tendered Qualified Domestic Relations Order, awarding $91,000.00 to Ruby and the balance in the amount of $201,536.05 to Larry.

In October, 2010, Ruby moved the family court to modify the QDRO. Because the QDRO referenced the amount in the retirement accounts at the time of the marriage as Larry’s nonmarital property, before large market losses occurred, Ruby requested the family court to amend the QDRO to reflect that his nonmarital portion be reduced by the same market loss as her marital portion.

The family court conducted a hearing and directed both parties to submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. The court entered Ruby’s version and ordered a modification of the QDRO, subtracting $145,699.83 from Larry’s nonmarital portion and awarding the funds to Ruby.

On appeal, Larry argued that the family court abused its discretion in reassigning his nonmarital property to Ruby, that the parties entered into a valid separation agreement, that the family court did not have jurisdiction to modify the QDRO, and that Ruby failed to appeal from either the decree or the original QDRO.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Larry that the family court violated KRS 403.190 in reassigning his nonmarital property to Ruby, that the parties entered into a valid separation agreement, and that family court did not have jurisdiction to modify the QDRO fifteen months after its entry.

Therefore, the Court of Appeals held that the Boyle Family Court abused its discretion in modifying the QDRO and reassigning a portion of Larry’s nonmarital property to Ruby and the family court’s order entered November 30, 2010 is reversed.

Digested by Sandra G. Ragland, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates.






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